Day 8: Tuscany

I’ve been looking forward to this day for many months. Sure, I love me some ancient ruins, but I think the one thing I was most looking forward to on this trip was visiting a winery in Tuscany. I was really looking forward to trying some Old World vintages that aren’t really popular in the US, and boy did this place deliver.

We started out this morning by heading to the market in Livorno, the port where our ship was docked. After a brief five minute drive, we pulled up to the largest covered marketplace in all of Europe. There was stall after stall of locals selling fresh fish, produce, cured meats, butchered meats, prepared dishes, wine, olive oil, pretty much everything you could think of. Since it was Saturday, there were even stalls set up outside the marketplace selling shoes/boots, clothes, jewelry, and other fashion items.

Our purpose in stopping at the marketplace wasn’t purely to sightsee. We were there to pick out ingredients for the pizza we would be making at the winery later in the day. Everyone had an assignment for an ingredient and 10 Euros to spend to get it. If you had any left over, you could find items outside the list you though others would enjoy. Our ingredient was eggplant, and Courtney and I took our job very seriously, visiting probably twenty or so stalls to see which farmer had the best eggplants. After we made our purchase, we decided to use some of our remaining money to get some fresh basil, as that wasn’t one of the primary ingrdients that our chef handed out.

Once everyone procured their ingredients, we met back up at the entrance where the chef gave us a tasting of some fresh prosciutto and mortadella to see how the various curing/processing styles differed. After that, we got back on board our bus to head to the vineyard: Torre a Cenaia. Upon arrival, we were given a brief tour of the cellar, and then everyone got on board a covered wagon for a horse-drawn tour of the vineyard. It was a little chilly for some, but the weather was pleasant enough, even though it drizzled a little bit.

After fifteen minutes or so, our wagon pulled up to a little kitchen on the property that was over 200 years old. It was here that we would make our focaccia, pizza, and cantucci (the first baking before biscotti). Believe it or not, my summer as assistant manager of a Little Caesar’s served me well, as we made pizza dough from scratch, something I had spent several months doing on a daily basis. We didn’t use this dough, as it needs time to rise; we made the dough for the next group and used the dough made by the preceding group.

Under the tutelage of Chef David, head chef at the vineyard, we put our dishes together and cooked them in a wood fired oven. Everything came out amazing, and we all had our fill of bread, pizza, and roasted vegetables. To accompany the meal, we had four wines: two whites and two reds. The first white was a steel aged chardonnay, and the second white was a varietal called vermentino. We liked the vermentino so much that we bought a bottle that we will enjoy later in the cruise. 

The reds were a fantastic sangiovese and a red blend of the sangiovese with cabernet sauvignon. While both of these wines were great, we had been told by our tour guide in Rome that the wine voted best in Italy was a varietal called brunello di montalcino. It just so happened that the vineyard had this wine, though we didn’t get to try it while we were there. We decided to purchase a bottle for 24 Euros solely on the advice of our guide and take it to dinner back on the ship.

When we had finished our lunch, we boarded the bus for the half hour ride back to the ship. I promptly fell asleep for an hour, after which we decided to don our bathing suits for the first time and relax in the hot tub on the pool deck. The skies started to clear and the sun began to set while we were there, so after we got out, I rushed down to get my camera. I’m glad I did because the sunset was the bet yet and created the most enormous rainbow I have ever seen. It easily filled 1/4 of the sky (see Facebook photo).

Once I had taken my photos, we got ready for dinner, went to Martini’s for a pre-dinner drink, and then went to dinner at Polo Grill, which is the steakhouse themed restaurant on board.  I had a nice ribeye, and Courtney chose the surf and turf. But the real star of the show was the fantastic brunello di montalcino that we brought along. We knew we had done the right thing when the sommelier smiled as she read the bottle while she opening it for us. We will most likely be ordering a case of this sometime after we get home. It was just phenomenal.

Tomorrow we will be docking at Monte Carlo in Monaco but will spend the day in Nice, France at another vineyard. I’m looking forward to tasting the differences in the wine. We’re also going to try and visit the famous Monte Carlo casino if we have time. Tomorrow should be another busy day!


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